Source: supplied by publisher via Edelweiss
Formats available: hardcover, large print, ebook, audiobook
Genres: contemporary romance, relationship fiction, women's fiction
Published by Hqn on March 7, 2023
Purchasing Info: Author's Website, Publisher's Website, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Bookshop.org, Better World Books
Beloved bestselling author Susan Mallery brings readers an emotional, witty, and heartfelt story that explores the nuances of a broken family’s complex emotions as they strive to become whole in this uplifting story of human frailty and resilience.
Finley McGowan is determined that the niece she’s raising will always feel loved and wanted. Unlike how she felt after her mom left to pursue a dream of stardom, and when the grandfather who was left to raise them abandoned her and her sister, Sloane, when they needed him most. Finley reacted to her chaotic childhood by walking the straight and narrow—nose down, work hard, follow the rules.
Sloane went the other way.
Now Sloane is back, as beautiful and as damaged as ever…and she wants a relationship with her daughter. She says she’s changed, but Finley’s heart has been burned once too often for her to trust easily. But is her reluctance to forgive really about Sloane or worry over losing what she loves the most? With the help of a man who knows all too well how messy families can be, Finley will learn there’s joy in surrendering and peace in letting go.
Supposedly, “love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things and [it] never fails. But love is a feeling. It’s not the emotion that does anything. It’s PEOPLE who love and do all the other things in this famous list from the Bible.
In dysfunctional families such as the ones in this story, it’s the strongest members of the family who do most of that bearing and enduring – even after their hope is gone. The story in The Sister Effect (technically it should have been The Sibling Effect but that’s not nearly as catchy a title) is told from the perspective of that person in two initially separate families, that one who stands tallest and is supposed to forgive everyone else all their many and very real trespasses – even as they deal with the trauma that bearing inflicts. On top of dealing with the original trauma and the dysfunction and broken trust that followed it.
Jericho Ford is still grieving the sudden loss of his father as well as having to assume the helm of the family construction company a couple of decades before he thought he was ready. He thought his family had finally found their way to the other side of that grief when their dysfunction manifested in a way that honestly deserves its own episode of the Jerry Springer Show.
Jericho’s wife Lauren and his brother Gil didn’t just have an affair, they managed to fall in love and get pregnant. Jericho is supposed to forgive, forget, give his blessing AND be his brother’s best man. Jericho’s lack of grief over the end of his marriage is so easy to get past that he realizes that it had been over for a long time.
The way that his brother betrayed his trust is a LOT harder to get over. And he’s having a LOT of trouble over it. That betrayal cut deep, and he’s still righteously angry about the whole thing. His mother wants peace in what remains of her family, while Jericho wants to stop having to be the bigger man about damn near everything.
But Jericho’s righteous anger provides the lighter moments in this one. The bigger trauma, the larger betrayals, and the huge tragedy in the story belongs to Finley McGowan as she is forced to keep her own trauma and broken trust at bay every single day.
Because Finley’s sister Sloane is an alcoholic whose last great binge before entering rehab derailed all of Finley’s plans for a future that she was working damn hard for. At least until Sloane stole Finley’s pickup truck filled with $100,000 of supplies for the house she was flipping, sold off those supplies and wrecked the truck. Along with Finley’s credit rating, her job and her relationship with her fiance. (He turned out to be no great loss, but still…)
And left Finley, always the responsible one, to take guardianship of Sloane’s then 5-year-old daughter Aubrey while Sloane tried to accept both her alcoholism and the steps she’d need to take to deal with it for the rest of her life. An acceptance she’s having difficulty reaching no matter how hard or how faithfully she performs the steps to achieve it.
Like Jericho’s mother, Finley and Sloane’s mother expects Finley to accept the apologies and keep on believing that Sloane will turn her life around no matter how damn tired Finley is of having to pick up the pieces of the wreck Sloane makes of Finley’s life – over and over and over.
Both Finley and Jericho begin the story in a place of being resentful as hell. They’re both right. It’s not fair to them. They’re the ones who have to set their own emotions aside, over and over again, for the benefit of people they’re not really sure ARE sorry for what they’ve done. And they’re both really tired of their respective messes – which are SO not their fault.
But holding on to their anger and resentment isn’t doing either of them any good. It’s only when they reach out to each other that they find much, much better feelings to hold onto.
Escape Rating A-: So often, stories like this one focus on the journey of the person who has committed the wrong or is on the road to recovery from their issues. Stories that focus on redemption and healing. What I really liked about The Sister Effect was that instead of focusing on Sloane’s redemption arc or Gil’s transgression turned epic romance (not that both aren’t important parts of this story), the story instead focused on the people picking up the pieces of their destruction, Finley and Jericho.
Their anger, resentment and distrust felt oh-so-righteous. It’s a perspective that’s sometimes missing in redemption stories, that the people wronged are entitled to their feelings and that “sorry” doesn’t wipe it all away. Their trust has been abused and broken, and they have to process that loss before they can move on with their lives.
They both need to forgive, if not forget, for their own healing, but it’s a hard journey and the difficulty of it made the characters shine – even while they ranted and vented and cried.
While Finley’s story was so much more traumatic and heartbreaking, Jericho’s was a necessary part of the whole. The farcical nature of his family’s difficulty both managed to balance out the heavier nature of hers while giving them common ground for reaching their own happy ever after with their respective – and combined – dysfunctional families.
The Sister Effect turned out to be a wonderful story about the ties that bind – and sometimes strangle – within families that have been to hell and back together and separately and still manage to find a way forward – more or less together. That their journey resolves into just the right mix of hopeful ‘happy for now’ for Sloane’s on her journey while giving Finley and Jericho as well as Gil and Lauren the happy ever after they’ve finally earned.